Councillor calls for city to allow restaurant patios on streets and in parking lots

A Hamilton councillor is proposing the city create “outdoor dining districts” on streets and in parking lots to give restaurants and cafés struggling because of COVID-19 a boost.

Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr’s motion, which will be brought before council on May 13, calls for staff with economic development to work with BIAs and eatery owners to identify locations that could be transformed into temporary seating during the upcoming summer and fall.

The motion is seconded by Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

It says the city’s culinary scene is a large-scale employer and “recognized across the country,” but notes the virus has had a “major impact.”

If adopted, it calls for an application process that would consider any negative impacts to pedestrian safety, emergency services and public transit as well as follow all necessary public health requirements — including those pertaining to COVID-19.

The motion also says any outdoor dining area that’s not currently included in a BIA must have at least a two-thirds buy-in from businesses in any block that would be affected.

As for costs connected to road closure permits, traffic management and parking meters, Farr’s motion says they should be waived or refunded using money from the economic development reserve. All other costs would be covered by the applicants.

Anyone who applies would also be responsible for managing and operating the dining district, the motion reads, including when it comes to staffing, cleaning and ensuring physical distancing.

The councillor is also asking the city to set up temporary outdoor patios in parking lots at plazas and malls, with staff waiving enforcement of any zoning that would typically be necessary.

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